Welcome to our Outdoor Learning Blog !

In Scotland, all children and young people are expected to regularly access their learning through a consistent and progressive experience of the outdoors. There is lots of wonderful learning going on in all sectors as educators explore, design and provide creative and challenging opportunities outdoors through which learners are developing rich, deep and connected understanding.

I love to talk with people about how their outdoor learning is going. I can be contacted at: julie.wilson@educationscotland.gov.uk

Launch of Going Out There: Scottish Framework for Safe Practice in Off-Site Visits

Dr Alasdair Allan launches ‘Going Out There: Scottish Framework for Safe Practice in Off-site Visits’
Wednesday 12th June 2013, Grangemouth High School, Falkirk

Camping, expedition packing, brewing the tea outside and some fine fruit and vegetables were all in evidence yesterday at Grangemouth High School in Falkirk as Dr Allan launched new guidance to support safe practice in managing groups engaged in outdoor learning, educational visits and off-site experiences. Guests were greeted by head teacher Lyn Brown who, along with staff and pupils provided a snapshot of the broad range of outdoor learning activities supported by the school. 

Dr Allan met youngsters from Bo’ness Public Nursery who shared stories of their experience in local woodlands which they visit regularly for outdoor learning and play sessions. He talked with Grangemouth High School young people about to embark on a visit to Ghana, as well as those who would be spending the weekend on a camping and canoeing expedition. GHS teacher Fiona Hutt helped pupils from the ASU to showcase their residential experiences and to talk about the benefits of spending time away in new environments. P7 children from Larbert Village Primary School shared learning across curricular areas from their ‘Woodland Wednesday’ programme and staff and young people from Carrongrange ASN School demonstrated the range of ways that they are developing skills for learning, life and work through off-site visits. 

Alasdair Allan’s own reflections on the event are captured on the Engage for Education blog: http://engageforeducation.org/2013/06/alasdair-allan-blog-launch-of-going-out-there/

You can find out more about the document on our outdoor learning page: http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/learningteachingandassessment/approaches/outdoorlearning/healthandsafety/index.asp and the document itself is situated on its own site which has been developed and will be updated and maintianed by SAPOE: http://www.goingoutthere.co.uk.  

The framework has been developed in partnership by Education Scotland, the Scottish Government, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Scottish Advisory Panel for Outdoor Education (SAPOE) and the Association of Directors of Education, with input from other partners including voluntary organisations and providers. It promotes a sensible and manageable approach to organising and leading educational visits locally, further afield, residentially and internationally. It emphasises an enabling attitude which reduces bureaucracy while ensuring guidance and support is in place for trips to be managed safely. It is expected that ‘Going Out There’ can be adopted as a common framework across Scotland by all those managing or organising visits or providing activities and venues. http://www.goingoutthere.co.uk.   

Nigel Marshal, chair of SAPOE commended the enabling approach promoted throughout the guidance: “SAPOE has been involved in supporting Scottish Government and Education Scotland in the provision of Guidance documents for many years. The new Going Out There guidance is one we are particularly proud to be associated with as it is will enable and encourage those working with young people out of doors to access relevant and coherent guidance online in an easy and uncomplicated way”

Afterwards Dr Allan summed up his enjoyment of the event by saying, “I was inspired by the experiences showcased at today’s event, where schools demonstrated how outdoor learning presents endless opportunities across all ages, stages and subjects.”

Commenting on the new Scottish framework, Bruce Robertson, who chaired the Managing Outdoor Learning Safely Group for the Scottish Government said, “The aim of this guidance is to streamline the over bureaucratic health and safety approaches which can sometimes get in the way of outdoor learning in its various facets across Scotland. As chairman of the group which developed the guidance, I would commend it to all users and thank everyone who made this possible.”

Scotland’s Nature Festival

Scotland’s Nature Festival (formerly Biodiversity Week) is organised by Scottish Natural Heritage and other strong partners in environment and forestry, outdoor learning and play to highlight and celebrate Scotland’s natural landscape, areas of wild beauty and city greenspaces. This year’s theme is ‘Love Life, Love Nature’ and aims to inspire fun, adventurous and positive engagement with nature as a way to promote biodiversity, sustainability, enjoyment and well-being.

 The .pdf below lists a collection of resources, with weblinks for celebration activities and nature based experiences suitable for all ages.

2020 Scotland’s Nature Festival

Also included below is a presentation on the top ten reasons why Scottish teachers say they love leading learning in the outdoors – why not choose one to explore in a nature-based action learning project? Love life, love nature and enjoy celebrating!

Dalkeith Top Ten Reasons to Love OL

New online resource – Inspiring Landscapes Inspiring Learning

This new resource to support professional learning of all teachers and providers in outdoor learning has been framed around short clips from the workshop sessions from last year’s ‘Inspiring Landscapes Inspiring Learning’ professional learning weekend. As well as the clips, there are links to related resources. Incorporating Emerging Technologies, Literacy and Numeracy outdoors, photography and wellbeing of habitats and populations, and more besides there is bound to be something for everyone. You can access the resource here.

Mission:Explore celebrates John Muir with launch of a free ebook

A partnership between the John Muir Trust and Mission:Explore – a group of teachers, artists, activists and adventurers – has launched a free ebook to introduce the great explorer, naturalist, writer, mountaineer and conservationist to a new audience.

Supported by Scottish Natural Heritage, Mission:Explore – John Muir, features a range of activities that reflect the adventures and ethos of the Victorian Scot, whose 175th birthday will be celebrated this month in his adopted homeland the USA as well as in the land of his birth.

It encourages people of all ages – including groups and families – to follow in the footsteps of Muir by taking part in an imaginative set of ‘missions’, which involve looking, touching, walking, exploring, thinking, and even dancing in wild nature wherever they find it.

Suggested activities range from observing how frogs swim to getting windswept, creating a mini-National Park, and staring at the stars.

The book launch ties in perfectly with Year of Natural Scotland 2013 and its theme of celebrating John Muir. There is already interest across the UK and in America.

Your ebook is free to download from Mission:Explore and John Muir Award web pages, and can be used on smart phones, laptops and tablets, or printed off and read in the old-fashioned way.

Link to John Muir Award launch page – http://www.jmt.org/jmaward-mission-explore-john-muir.asp
Link to Mission:Explore launch page – http://www.missionexplore.net/shop

Daniel Raven-Ellison, Guerilla Geographer at Mission:Explore, said: “Mission:Explore and the John Muir Award have much in common. We’re both all about discovering, exploring, conserving and sharing, so making this book together made perfect sense.

“We had a great time making it and we’re sure that our readers will have an even better time doing each of the quirky adventures inside. Good luck!”

“These missions are great, you can really see the spark they’ve generated with teachers.” Carol Walker, South Lanarkshire Outdoor Learning Development Officer

Featuring 20 activities that reflect the adventures and ethos of the Victorian Scot, you can access the free Mission:Explore John Muir eBook or PDF in a number of ways:

• eBook – on-line with Graphicly http://graphicly.com/mission-explore/mission-explore-john-muir/john-muir
• eBook for iPhone or iPad – via ‘Mission Explore John Muir’ in iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/mission-explore-john-muir/id627660952?mt=11
• eBook from Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&field-author=The%20Geography%20Collective&search-alias=books-uk&sort=relevancerank
• Printable PDF version (5.3MB) from http://www.jmt.org/jmaward-mission-explore-john-muir.asp

Find hundreds of other missions on the Mission:Explore website http://www.missionexplore.net

About Mission:Explore

• Mission:Explore is a collection of books created by the Geography Collective, a unique team of over 25 geographers, teachers, educators and artists who work together to help young people explore and see the world in new ways. It makes books full of illustrated challenges that aim to make children a little more confident, happy, empathetic and knowledgeable.They think that learning in the real world, in real places and about real issues are vital to any childhood.

• Mission:Explore has won awards including National Trust & Hay Festival Outdoor Book of the Year 2011, and a Pink Stinks approved stamp for being gender neutral.

About Year of Natural Scotland 2013

• The Year of Natural Scotland 2013 is the latest in a series of themed years for the Scottish Government. It aims to highlight Scotland’s stunning natural beauty and biodiversity, and promote opportunities for visitors and residents to enjoy our beautiful landscapes, wildlife and heritage responsibly. http://www.snh.gov.uk/enjoying-the-outdoors/year-of-natural-scotland-2013

About The John Muir Trust

The John Muir Trust is the leading wild land conservation charity in the United Kingdom, with a membership of around 10,000.

We seek to ensure that wild land is protected and enhanced, and that wild places are valued by and for everyone.

The Trust does this by:
• Owning and managing wild land for conservation
• Assisting others in wild land management
• Campaigning for the long-term legal protection of wild land
• Encouraging people to connect with and care for wild places through the John Muir Award and volunteer conservation programmes.

We take our name and inspiration from John Muir (1838-1914), the pioneering, influential Scots-born American conservationist who dedicated his life to protecting wild places and campaigned successfully for the establishment of National Parks to safeguard vast tracts of wild land, including Yosemite Valley in California.

Festival of Dangerous Ideas 13th – 21st June 2013

The brilliant folks from the College Development Network have put together another wonderful programme for this year’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas. The festival was created to ‘re-establish the importance of dangerous ideas as agents of change in education – to shift the axis of what is possible!’ There is a real focus on adventurous approaches to learning, especially in the outdoors, which fits completely with our work in professional learning and Adventures in Improvised Living. More information about the week and the overall programme of events which are suitable for a range of educators can be found on the CDN website: http://bit.ly/Vw0nzT

There are two outstandingly innovative events which feature outdoor learning prominently. The first is a repeat of the most excellent Edible Edinburgh Breakfast at the Botanics Event which takes place in the Royal Botanic Gardens on 19th June. Check out the details: http://bit.ly/109G01s If you enjoy a stimulating, delicious and nature connected start to your working day, this event is a ‘must’ for you!

The second is a fabulous whole day event at West Highland College UHI in Fort William: Celebrating Failure and Success http://bit.ly/YZLfy1 In the first part of the day, the West Highland Way Walkers who will just have completed their 5 day walk, led by young people from West Highland College will exhibit the dangerous ideas that grew during their journey in the wild. In the second half of the day, Outward Bound will lead a session that will explore how they have used the research on Mindsets to develop their work with young people. Mindset is a model developed by Professor Carol Dweck of Stanford University. At its heart is the distinction between students’ perceptions of their abilities. The belief that you have innate, unchanging capabilities is called a Fixed Mindset. The belief that you can develop your capabilities through hard work and practice is called a Growth Mindset. The implications of these two are significant, and will frame this workshop.

Snow

My ‘Pending comment now has a home and I can upload some photos, too:
4″ of snow and Muiravonside looked quite desolate amongst the felled trees. The burbling brook (yea, I know we don’t have Brooks as such in Scotland but it reads better, ok?) sounded hollow and looked darkly intimidating. Fire lighting was seriously difficult but showing and then building igloos out of wonderfully compressible dry snow made the day a fairly rare event. Pictures from the activity are evocative of the enjoyable learning which was achieved but I don’t know how best to make them available here.
Andy Cloquet
Mariner Support Service / MIC

Valentine’s Day 2013 – 10 Reasons Scottish Teachers Love Outdoor Learning

This post was constructed by Juliet Robertson of Creative Star Learning and is based upon a presentation I gave at Dalkeith High School and associated primary schools on a Valentine’s Day In-set along the theme of falling in love with outdoors.

The reasons are formed from repeated comments that I have received from teachers, children and young people over the last ten years. The photos are from Juliet who matched them beautifully I think to each of the ideas. They are captured from her extensive practice with Scottish teachers and Early Years practitioners, taken in all seasons and weathers!

Reason 1
We are happier and more hopeful when outdoors especially when in contact with wildspace and nature.

Reason 2
We are more focussed, more attentive and more engaged for longer outdoors.

Reason 3
We are more adventurous, adaptive, flexible and reflexive outdoors.

Reason 4
We are better connected to places and people outdoors with a stronger sense of identity and purpose.

Reason 5
We learn better in the real world, in real life contexts, where we can make meaningful sense of our experiences.

Reason 6
We are more curious, ask questions, build stronger cognitive pathways and use higher order thinking strategies more readily outside.

Thank you Alistair Seaman for sharing this photo from Grounds for Learning NatNet 2012 event.

Reason 7
We are more relational outdoors and our learning is more collaborative and shared.


Thank you Inverallochy School for sharing this wonderful photo! 

Reason 8
We are more inclusive outdoors, deploying different learning styles and drawing on different ways of knowing.

Reason 9
We are regenerating our practice in learning and teaching through our journeys outdoors.

Reason 10
We are genuinely cultivating new ways of doing things outdoors.

Many thanks to Juliet for making this an easy post and for tweeting the ideas as the presentation was happening. Juliet has been blogging consistently about outdoor learning on ‘I’m a Teacher, get me OUTSIDE here’ which is crammed with ideas from her inspirational practice and leadership.

Inspiring Landscapes Inspiring Learning

Over 20 teachers spent a packed weekend in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park learning about and sharing different approaches to taking learning outdoors.

The teachers from all sectors came from the councils which are funding partners of the Outdoor Learning with the National Parks project, and considered progression through outdoor learning in a variety of workshops including literacy and building a sense of place, numeracy outdoors, emerging technologies and geocaching activities, the John Muir Award and more. Some of the best learning evolved through sharing the wide range of experiences brought by the teachers and workshop providers, and all left inspired to develop new and build on existing opportunities in their schools and local areas.

On their arrival the teachers were first learning from groups of S5 and S6 pupils from ten different schools who had spent the week at the residential centre focusing on leadership, personal development and environmental stewardship through undertaking a John Muir Award and a range of adventure and environmental activities. The groups’ presentations were varied, entertaining, enlightening and challenging, setting the scene well for the teachers’ weekend.

Look out for the film clips from each of the sessions, which will soon be shared on the Education Scotland OL website, with further links and support to provide all teachers with ideas and guidance for developing their own outdoor learning.

Breathing Life into the Curriculum

A lovely letter in the TESS a while ago from Mary Jackson, who is development adviser with Learning through Landscapes (operating in Scotland as Grounds for Learning). There is growing concern that many children are being ‘raised indoors’ and that they are therefore missing out on a childhood rich in outdoor experience and healthy outdoor play and adventure. Reflecting on how Scottish teachers are making the most of  Curriculum for Excellence through Outdoor Learning she comments, ’some Scottish schools are already breathing life into their curriculum by taking it outdoors in inspiring and innovative ways.’ Too true!

Mary is writing to introduce us to a new global network of organisations who share a commitment to the development of school grounds for learning and play.  The International School Grounds Alliance (ISGA) has been co-founded by Learning through Landscapes (UK), Evergreen (Canada) and Bay Tree Design (USA) and offers abundant resource and materials to stimulate and support creative school grounds design. There is an open invitation for any organisation or individual interested in joining with others to take forward this important work to visit the ISGA website : www.internationalschoolgrounds.org

National Network for Outdoor Learning Meeting 5

The National Network for Outdoor Learning recently gathered at Camperdown Country Park in Dundee for their first meeting of the 2012/2013 session. The network is made up of representatives from each of our 32 local authorities (a lead education officer and a SAPOE officer) as well as partners from key national outdoor learning organisations and groups. Our remit is to

  1. work together to generate innovation and creativity in outdoor learning practice, especially as regards Curriculum for Excellence through Outdoor Learning (CfEtOL) and Building Your Curriculum Outside and In BYCOI)
  2. take forward a cohesive whole community approach to CfEtOL at a strategic local and establishment level
  3. share our emerging practice and to support and encourage each other in those developments
  4. cultivate genuinely new approaches to learning and teaching through high quality professional learning and development programmes
  5. most importantly, increase opportunities for children and young people to regularly and frequently access their learning across the curriculum through a broad range of high quality experiences in outdoor learning.

Here is some of our group reflecting on how well things in outdoor learning are moving forward strategically in our nation. Ali Hammerton drew us a map of Scotland in chalk and we used a series of weather symbols to feedback from our experiences of working on implementing CfEtOL in our own contexts. The overall picture was one of very ’sunny’ weather – a bright outlook created by all the great work going on in local authorities from launching their Council outdoor learning strategies, to increasing opportunities for all children and young people to engage in literacy and numeracy outdoors and to creating new programmes for adventure and residential activity based on geography, technologies, sciences and history.

At lunchtime, we were delighted to join a large crowd of local people attending the launch of Dundee Partnership’s outdoor learning strategy. Thanks to Derek Napier, Outdoor Education Team Leader for Dundee, we were treated to a fabulous display of outdoor activity and to some fine speeches outlining the benefits of outdoor learning for all ages and communities.

We spent some time hearing from network members about how they were taking CfEtOL in their own contexts. Many thanks to John Garvie, chair of Highland Outdoor Learning Group, who shared the development of Highland’s Outdoor Learning strategy and the work that is going into its implementation. Willie White from East Ayrshire outlined the process that his local authority strategy group has gone through in developing their approach to outdoor learning and Sue Thorburn from Aberdeen City shared how their many 3-18 Places Projects are bringing literacy alive in the outdoors as a key part of their stratgic implementation of CfEtOL. 

The final part of our day together was spent hearing from members sharing their expertise in developing an outdoor nursery, curriculum links to the land use strategy, professional recognition in outdoor learning and in planning for the Year of Natural Scotland.  What a wonderful day – so encouraging to be with people who are totally committed to supporting outdoor learning across Scotland with such passion and strength!




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